As a little girl, I used to drink rice milk and eat brownies in place of meals whenever I could talk my parents into it. Yes, I was very persuasive, and they trusted my instincts a lot – bless them.
You might be thinking, well yeah, all little kids would eat sweets all the time if given the choice. And to that I respond, sure, but what if there’s a deeper reason?
For me, there was: I was too yang.
In Chinese medicine, yin and yang are two opposite energies that appear in all realms of life – from food to emotions. The two must be in balance to reach physical and mental harmony. Yin represents sweet foods, sugar being one of the strongest forms. Other yin items include alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, fruit and all desserts. In the body, yin represents expansiveness and lightness – impermanent or not. Many strong yin foods give a brief feeling of energy and openness, followed by a contraction, or crash. Think about the crash in energy you experience a few hours after a big cup of coffee.
The strongest yang food item is salt, others being red meat, fried foods and even excessive whole grains. Yang foods are grounding, stabilizing, and bring us into focus. When we consume too much of them, we become contracted and shut down – emotionally and physically.
So, back to that little girl with brownie crumbs all over her face. She was too yang. I was raised on a macrobiotic diet in my very early life, and my parents ate that way during my mother’s pregnancy. This led me to be born with a yang constitution (physical make-up), causing me to naturally crave sweets to balance all of the brown rice I was eating.
Fun fact: I couldn’t use the bathroom, if you know what I mean, for the first 10 days I was born. That’s how you know you’re too yang.
On that note, let’s get into some signals that you may be too yin or too yang – the pendulum swings both ways.
Signs that you’re too yin:
1. Scattered brain.
2. Slow pulse.
3. Mental fog.
5. Skin breakouts.
8. Colds and mucous
9. Brittle hair and nails
10. Itchy skin
Signs that you’re too yang:
2. Excessive body heat
3. Dark urine
4. Quick pulse
7. Dry mouth and unquenchable thirst
8. Tinnitus (noise in the ears)
9. Restless sleep
As you can see, you don’t want to lean too heavily in either direction. So how do you find a middle ground?
Here are my top tips to find balance:
1. Reduce extremely yin and yang foods: Sugar, caffeine, alcohol, excessive red meat and overly salty foods.
2. Crowd out these super-intense foods by integrating more neutral, balancing foods: salmon, seasonal vegetables, quinoa, berries, high-quality oils and fresh vegetable juices. Sweet vegetables like carrots, onions and sweet potatoes will really help you with sugar cravings – eat them daily.
3. Supplement. If you’re too yin or yang, you want to make sure you’re getting all your vitamins and minerals to support and improve your baseline health. Everyone should be taking B12 complex, vitamin D, fish oil, magnesium, calcium and zinc. You’ll want to experiment to see which ones are best for your individual body, but those six are a good basic bunch to start with.
4. Practicing balancing exercises. Diaphragmatic breathing reorganizes your entire nervous and digestive systems, calming your mind to make aligned decisions, reducing anxiety and improving your digestion. Yoga and meditation are also amazing balancing practices.
5. Manage your stress. As one of my favorite humans Dr. Libby says, it’s all about how we perceive stress. You could look at a packed calendar and overflowing inbox as a total drag, or as an awesome sign that you’re doing amazing work, having fun and making beautiful connections. Decide how you want to see things daily, and watch everything come into alignment.
So, you thought you were going to read another run-of-the-mill article about why you should quit sugar, right? Nope, not here. There’s always another layer.
Right now I want you to scroll back up to the list of “yin” symptoms and mark down how many are showing up for you. If it’s even two or three, it’s likely that you’re eating way too much sugar. The first step is to remove refined sugar, then slowly reduce your unrefined and fruit-based sources like honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and fruits like bananas and grapes. You’ll start to feel your energy lift, mental fog clear, digestion improve, weight decrease and focus return very quickly.
Great items to satisfy sweet cravings as you’re cutting sugar include berries (super low in sugar), green apples, sweet vegetables, and coconut in all its beautiful forms.
It’s really worth it to experiment with reducing or removing sugar – it might unlock your true potential, not to mention, a body you never knew you had.
How will you experiment with sugar this week? It’s not about pointing fingers and demonizing the sweet stuff, but rather, finding an aligned amount that works for you through trial and error. Sugar is bossy, and your body will demand more, the more you have.
You’re in charge of your body, and plus, you’re already sweet enough.
Share your plan in the comments below, and shoot me a note at email@example.com if you have questions about anything discussed here.
Lula Brown, Certified Health Coach and Private Chef